Before our vacation in Southeast Asia came to an end we made one last stop. We bid farewell to our little island paradise and boarded a flight to Singapore for a 24 hour stopover. Looking back it’s hard to believe all of this happened within one day.
Coming in over Singapore was amazing. The bluest waters were dotted with colorful container ships, and then the plane slowly lowered beneath the cloud cover revealing a huge metropolis in the distance.
Although the flight was just an hour and a half, it was the end of our travels and we were feeling exhausted. James met us at the airport and our first order of business was to find our hotel. We underestimated the distance to our hotel from the MRT station and what took 10 minutes felt like forever, dragging my bag there on foot.
Where to Stay
Since we only had 24 hours in Singapore we wanted to stay somewhere with easy access to and from the airport, but also well connected to the city center. James found the Champion Hotel for us and we were so happy when we arrived. The double doors whisked open and we were greeted by a gush of cold air. A huge relief in Singapore’s climate (especially after dragging bags from the train to the hotel).
The lobby was cheery and the staff were accommodating. They even had a computer station and sitting area so we could put up our feet and plot out our next moves. Can you tell we’re exhausted?
The rooms were simple and clean, and at $65 a night they couldn’t be beat. Silvia and James, who had been in Singapore since we left Vietnam opted for a gorgeous hotel right in town. I’ll tell you about it later.
Where to Eat
After checking into our hotel, we walked down the street for lunch at the Haig Road Market & Food Centre. It is much like a food court or cafeteria, so after you place your order with one of the vendors you grab a table in the center. We noticed food centers all over Singapore, some open air like the Haig Road Market and some in malls or MRT stations. The foods are typically traditional Malaysian and Indian, but the bigger centers had a wide variety of options and international cuisines. I got a vegetable fried rice and naan with a dipping sauce followed by roti tisu and puti piring for dessert. We also stocked up on water bottles because our first activity was going to be the tree top walk at the MacRitchie Reservoir.
What to Do
Back at the hotel we requested a taxi and quickly learned that with 5 people we wouldn’t fit in a taxi and had to hire a private van. Fortunately the price was reasonable, split amongst us. To save time we asked the driver to drop us off at the Singapore Island Country Club which allowed us to enter the park as close to the tree top walk as possible. We had barely walked five minutes before it started pouring. We ducked into the Ranger Station and had to wait for the rain to slow before continuing toward the suspension bridge.
We discovered that beyond the tree top walk (which is one way) it was going to be a long walk back to the country club. Although we got soaked, the experience was worth it. And it’s a rain forest… rain happens.
When we finally made it out of the forest, we found more monkeys than we’d seen inside!
We had to take two taxis (which were really hard to find) back to the nearest MRT station because the drivers were changing shifts and didn’t want to drive far before going off duty.
To relax a bit, we decided to stop by James’ and Silvia’s place, the Hotel Fort Canning, for happy hour. It was luxurious and picture-perfect. And the complimentary bubbles and hors d’oeuvres didn’t hurt either. I grabbed a quick shower since I was still soaked from our rainforest hiked so I can personally attest to the amazing bathrooms. If you are looking for someplace fancy, this is your number.
Getting Around Singapore
After freshening up we set off to find dinner. By this time, we were experts at getting around. We had taken the MRT train from the airport, hired a private van to the MacRitchie Reservoir, hailed taxis and returned on the MRT. If you can help it, use the MRT to get around. It is quick, clean and cheap.
And it’s easy. We didn’t buy a tourist pass at the airport (which requires you visit a specific teller in a specific terminal). Instead we just bought the standard ticket. Each time we entered a station we went to the general ticketing machine where you place your card on a little card reader. Then a map appears on the screen and you touch the station you are traveling to. The machine tells you how much it costs and you put in exact change.
You continue through the barriers, scanning your ticket along the way, and follow the signs until you reach your platform. They are easy to recognize because they are numbered and labeled.
Upon exiting the station, there are plenty of signs to direct you towards your desired destination. We were headed to Dhoby Ghaut for dinner. They have a huge selection of vendors and cuisines.
What to See
After dinner we visited the supertrees at the Garden by the Bay. It sits beneath the Marina Bay Sands hotel, one of the most interesting buildings I’ve ever seen. There is a rooftop bar, garden and pool up there and we stopped in for the views after exploring the trees from the ground.
These amazing trees generate solar power and collect rainwater. And each one has a unique variety of plants and flowers growing vertically up the its trunk. We slowly made our way through the grove as the treetops glowed varying colors. Standing beneath them feels surreal.
Beyond the supertrees there is a large park with lots of ponds, walkways and botanical gardens to explore. We also learned there are loads of snails.
Although it was getting late, we dragged our tired feet to the top of the Marina Bay Sands – I’ve never seen such a massive hotel! I’m talking tall, tall trees reaching up towards the unreachable ceilings, standing in pots taller than me. Everything is done on a grand scale. While the pool is accessible to guest only, we were able to enjoy this view form the observation deck. The city glowed below and the container ships blinked in the distance.
We considered visiting the casino next door but it was just too late. We all head back to our beds and slept soundly. When we finally woke up very late the next morning, there was just enough time to grab lunch and take off for the airport.
Have you ever made a stopover? How did you maximize your travel time?
*Photos in the Langkawi airport by Anna Pineapple